A group of Buena Vista Horace Mann teachers protesting the conditions of the school following a gas leak the Friday before. Photo taken by Annika Hom, Aug. 30, 2021.

The Buena Vista Horace Mann community is asking for donations of water bottles and jugs and hand sanitizer through the end of the week. Drop off Dec. 14 and 15 (Wednesday and Thursday) from 9:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the main office.

Ask — and beg, and threaten action — and you shall receive. 

To the cautious relief of staff and students at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 on Tuesday, the school district met most demands staff made in response to finding arsenic and lead on-site two weeks ago. The SF Standard first reported the arsenic and lead findings. 

While relieved, the clarity was short-lived. On Tuesday, the school discovered that three out of 11 faucets tested for contaminants turned up “higher than the acceptable threshold of lead,” according to an internal message by Buena Vista principal Claudia DeLarios Morán that was reviewed by Mission Local.

The faucets were shut off, and DeLarios Morán told staff to keep students from drinking out of “any” of the water fountains in the building until further notice. It is too soon to tell what other steps will be taken. In the meantime, the district provided 2,100 bottles of water Monday for the students and staff to drink instead.

Mission Local broke the news last Thursday that teachers at Buena Vista threatened action against the school district if it failed to test all of its water fountains for lead, offer on-site contaminant tests for students and educators, and provide filtered drinking water by today, Tuesday, Dec. 13. 

So far, “they’re meeting all of our demands,” said Sara Mokhtari-Fox, an eighth grade teacher and member of the teacher union’s Union Building Committee, told Mission Local in a text message. “We didn’t need it all to be done by now. We needed it to be in the works.”

The district acknowledged the demands of the Union Building Committee in a Dec. 9 announcement, and said Millennium Consulting Associates would test some water fixtures, and the Public Utilities Commission would perform microbe testing the following day. 

So far, the district has honored its promises. By Tuesday, Buena Vista teachers noticed the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the district staff testing the water, and filtered water was supplied.

Friday’s announcement stated that results from Millennium’s Dec. 9 testing will be released tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 14. It is unclear if the three contaminated water fountains found Tuesday were the ones tested on Friday, Dec. 9. 

More Public Utilities Commission testing occurs Saturday, Dec. 13, the announcement added. 

Soil will be tested Tuesday as well and, during the winter break, the district will replace soil with “clean, new soil,” if weather permits. The Board of Educators will vote on an emergency resolution permitting this during Tuesday’s board meeting. 

The only remaining concern revolves around whether the district can provide on-site contaminant testing for students and educators. The school district initially offered to reimburse those who tested through their primary care doctors and appeared to double-down on that solution, according to the Dec. 9 school-wide announcement.  

However, Mokhtari-Fox and other Buena Vista teachers involved with the Union Building Committee said free on-site testing was preferable, because some students and families lack access to health insurance or pediatricians. Mokhtari-Fox remained hopeful, and told Mission Local on Tuesday that a district assistant superintendent suggested on-site testing could be possible “ASAP. By the end of the week.”

“Ideally, that would come a lot sooner so that kids could get tested sooner than later,” Mokhtari-Fox said. 

“The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority,” SFUSD spokesperson Laura Dudnick said in an email to Mission Local. “As we learn more, we are being transparent with information and decision making, and working in partnership with the BVHM community to listen and respond to their concerns.”

The Union Buildings Committee will meet Tuesday after school. Buena Vista’s entire staff plans on meeting tomorrow. 

“I don’t believe too much escalation will be taking place as it seems like things are actually moving in the way that they should,” Mokhtari-Fox said. “But we’ll see.”


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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. That school has always been a dumpster fire in every measurable way. It’s academic scores are always some of the lowest around, high teacher turn over, horrible building + water conditions, and in all this time Claudia De Larios Moran has done little but complain to the press, fist pump on cue and pretend like she knows what she’s doing.

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  2. Can lead testing of ALL our SFUSD sites that are in buildings that are over 100 years old be the norm?! Spring Valley, Lowell, and Galileo among countless others are among the dozens of 100+ year old institutions that should absolutely be on a lead testing list.

    Mission High water pipes have BROWN water coming out of them every time they haven’t been used for an extended time (i.e. Fall Break, Winter Break, etc). There is ONE filtered water bottle filler next to the cafeteria for all 1,250+ students and staff to share for those of us that are fearful of using the water fountains.

    Clean water won’t help our paychecks, but at least it will give us some basic peace of mind when hydrating.

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  3. Thank you for reporting on this terrible, dangerous chaos.

    The teachers and staff are fighting so hard, on top of the wage problems and everything else the district can throw at them. All in addition to actually teaching children.

    I wonder about the families who access the shelter beds at BVHM? Are they being provided with safe drinking and bathing water?

    How many schools have the same problems? You have got to wonder.

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